YOKOHAMA — When his name was called, the stadium was sent into an uproar.
Hayato Terahara, a Yokohama BayStars fireballer, appeared on the mound at an unusual time — in the ninth inning — on Sunday, in the final game of a three-game series against the Hiroshima Carp.
The BayStars were up by just two runs at 3-1, but Terahara, a seven-year veteran who has been in the club’s starting rotation since Opening Day, was dealing with a different kind of jitters than he normally experiences on the hill.
“I became nervous a bit,” Terahara, who picked up his second save of his pro career, confessed after the game.
Now a question has risen: Is he going to be the team’s new closer?
Maybe. Or maybe not.
At this point nobody really knows, including Terahara himself. Perhaps only time will tell.
Yokohama manager Akihiko Oya doesn’t care what the critics say since his team has the worst record in the Central League, and he half-angrily said he’ll do whatever it takes to win a ballgame.
“We want to win by any means,” he said. “He (Terahara) had a three-day layoff (before Sunday’s game) and I told him to be prepared (to be a closer).
“I don’t have to tell you guys how I use which players in what kind of situations. I just use them where I want to.”
It may not, however, be that easy for Terahara, a 25-year-old right-hander, to swiftly change his mind-set from one of a starter to one of a stopper’s.
Terahara said he has mixed feeling about the different roles.
“I’ve not abandoned my wish to be a starter,” said Terahara, who moved from the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks to Yokohama in a trade before last season. He then had his best pro season, going 12-12 with a 3.36 ERA.
“If it leads to winning by putting me in later in the game, I’ll do my best, though.”
In fact, both roles may be beneficial to him, enabling him to become a more complete pitcher.
“As a closer, you can’t give up a run,” Terahara said bluntly. “I learned the importance of each pitch.
“Now I know the feeling of being a middle reliever and a closer as well as a starter. You need concentration. That’s the difference.”
Terahara also said that technically he needs to develop something different — add something to his pitching repertoire — if he is asked to stay in the closer position.
“A closer needs a dropping pitch, which I don’t have,” he said, referring to a dominant forkball or sinker. “So I have to look for a different way.”
Despite his anxiety, some of his teammates may consider that closer is a fitting place because Terahara has one of the most blazing fastballs in Japanese baseball.
Terahara’s fastballs clock around 154 kph at top speed.
“He’s got a great ball,” said BayStars third baseman and slugger Shuichi Murata, adding he was surprised when he heard Terahara’s name was announced.
“And he’s got experience, too. It’d be interesting to put him in the spot. If we can make a pattern that we can win by relying on Terahara, it’d be cool.”
Before Terahara, Matt White had been Oya’s first choice. White has picked up two saves and has a 1.74 ERA this season.